Two Island Friends Share Two Points of View

kanzlerPainting by Clay Kanzler

Sculptor Katie Bell and painter Clay Kanzler might have about as opposite an approach to art as two artists can have. Kanzler’s detailed, scripted work begins with a specific group of ideas and proceeds through painstaking, detail-oriented work. Bell, on the other hand, begins and ends with her hands. Her figurative sculptures form from blocks of stone, and from the first strike of her chisel she has no idea what will emerge.

“Clay’s paintings have huge, deep meanings,” Bell said. “My work is almost meditational. I work with the stone and I give the stone a lot of space. It leads me, and I try to follow it.”

Bell and Kanzler have been close friends for decades, and first showed their work together 20 years ago at the former Wingspread Gallery in Northeast Harbor. This summer, they will again display their art together, at College of the Atlantic’s Ethel H. Blum Gallery. Bar Harbor. “Two Island Friends, Two Points of View” runs from Monday, July 20 through Friday, August 28. An opening reception with the artists will take place on Thursday, July 23, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

However different in approach, there is something of a spiritual essence to the work of each artist that ties them together. That essence, combined with a lengthy friendship and an incredible respect for each other’s work, has both artists looking forward to their upcoming joint show.

As detailed and crafted as Kanzler’s work is, he can’t help but be impressed with Bell’s direct carvings, he said.

“I get a wonderful feeling from Katie’s work, and they’re easy to like,” Kanzler said. “And what’s amazing is that the dimensions of her sculptures are the same as the blocks of stone she begins with. If it was me, I’d be making mistakes and lopping off pieces everywhere.”

Bell discovered the direct carving method in the early 1970s through a mentor, and has been hooked every since, she said. She doesn’t really think of herself as an artist, just someone who spends a lot of time being with pieces of stone. The magic all happens in her studio, right next to her house in Northeast Harbor.

“I am very simplistic, I use a hammer and chisel and a piece of stone,” she said. “I start abstractly, and then I hope and pray that something will come that’s fun to work with.”

Kanzler’s approach is just the opposite. He conceptualizes narratives in his head, scenes involving people in his prayers, images inspired by bible verses. He carefully realizes his visions through hours of painting, mixing nearly abstract imagery with photo-realist technique. The results are large, dynamic, deeply personal paintings that challenge the viewer to make sense of the story.

“I’m king of exploring and throwing all kinds of little snippets together,” Kanzler said. “There are really important things from my heart in all of the paintings.”

The Blum Gallery is located on the College of the Atlantic campus at 105 Eden Street. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free of charge. There will be a closing reception for the exhibit on Tuesday, Aug. 25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit